Some stonkingly awesome news broke yesterday that folks might have missed given the current volume of the book blogosphere, so I’m going to reiterate it here:
Tor and Tor UK have announced that ALL their ebook content will become DRM free over the next three months.
This is huge, people. A day that should truly be celebrated as a victory of common sense and vision over narrow-sighted finger-in-the-dyke thinking.
Why? Glad you asked.
To begin with – What’s DRM?
From Wikipedia: Digital rights management (DRM) is a class of access control technologies that are used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals with the intent to limit the use of digital content and devices after sale.
In other words, it’s the shit on your CDs that stops you being able to play them on your PC. It’s the shit that means when you buy a new computer game like Skyrim, you have to download an 8 gig ‘patch’ before you can frackin’ play it, because the developers didn’t actually put the finished game on the DVDs you bought at the store. And it’s the shit that means if you were to go and buy an ebook from Amazon for your Kindle, you couldn’t read it on your Nook. Even though you BOUGHT THE BOOK and should be able to read it however the hells you want to.
DRM does not stop eBook piracy. This is simply a fallacy. A quick trawl of the dozens of massive online pirate coves will result in a hit on pretty much any titles you like, despite the publishers of those titles ‘protecting’ these e-titles with DRM. Meanwhile, the people who actually do the right thing and purchase their eBooks through legitimate sources get prison-sexed. By purchasing a title protected by DRM, these consumers become locked into a single e-reader format. If they decide to change formats at a later date, if the format becomes obsolete, if the retailer goes the way of Borders, those readers run the very real risk of being unable to read the words they already bought and paid for.
Furthermore, many pirates cite DRM as a ‘reason’ why they make DRM protected content available. “I’m doing a favor for the consumer,” goes the argument. “They just want to be able to use the content they already paid for. I’m not a bastard thief. I’m a service provider.”
Yes, this decision by Tor & Tor UK makes it easier for ebook piracy to occur. But the truth is, ebook piracy already occurs. If someone wants to steal your work badly enough, they will steal it. In many pirate/hacker/cracker circles, there’s a perverse kind of pride taken in cracking DRM, and derisive snorting when said DRM is cracked with relative ease. Breaking DRM is some people’s idea of fun. It doesn’t prevent theft, and it actually makes the idea of theft more attractive to some people. And honestly, publishers? The kind of DRM placed on e-books can be cracked by anyone with a yellow belt in google-fu. I can fucking do it, and I need to call my wife for help when I want to turn my Macbook on.
Many consumers consider DRM a fundamental violation of the spirit of their purchase. When I buy an album, I am not renting it. I am BUYING it. If I want to listen to it on my computer, I should be able to do so. If I want to copy the files into my iTunes so I don’t have to get off my lazy ass every time I want to listen to a particular song, I should be able to do that. And if I want to copy it from the CD that I bought and paid for onto my iphone, you’re goddamn right I should be able to do that too. I BOUGHT it. It’s MINE now. According to the law as it stands now, even backing up the content that you bought is illegal.
As a lad who grew up in the 80s, I went through the financial buggery of having to transfer my music collection from tape to CD. It’s outrageous to suggest people should have to do something like that again in an age of electronic media, simply because an e-reader format goes the way of the Sega Dreamcast.
Finally, this move allows publishers (publishers who follow Tor’s lead, that is) to get out from under the mighty thumb of That Which Is Amazon. In order for us to avoid a situation where Amazon has a complete monopoly over the eBook market (and a high-school economics student can tell you why monopolies are bad, m’kay, but Charlie Stross explains the intricacies of it here better than I ever could) publishers need to free their content from DRM and allow other vendors to retail it.
This is a visionary and dramatic step by Tom Doherty Associates (of which Tor and Tor UK are a part), a victory for consumers, and a red-letter day in the history of publishing. I for one am immensely proud that I’m soon-to-be published by the company that is taking this all important (and hopefully trend-setting) step into a world with just a tiiiiiiny bit less idiocy in it, and I urge everyone to show their support by buying as many Tor books as you can once the DRM wall comes down.
There’s this book called STORMDANCER coming out in September on Tor UK that I hear is pretty awesome….

21 Responses to “DRMGTFO”

  1. Oh, I get it now! I saw the Internet getting all explodey yesterday after this announcement, but I really didn’t understand what it all meant or why it was such a big deal. Thank you for the pinhead-friendly post, Mr. Kristoff.

  2. Mirely says:

    You are pretty kick ass. You are spot on! Pretty excited about the news myself.

  3. hrose2931 says:

    Thanks for the explain for all of us non computer speak people! Now I get what it means. Think the other pubs will follow? I screwed if Amazon goes out of biz!

    • I think the other pubs will follow, yes. I sincerely hope they do.
      There is NO WAY IN HELLS that Amazon is going out of business over this. It just means that their drive towards complete dominance over the eBook market hits a very real, very high hurdle. And that’s a good thing for EVERYONE – publishers, authors, and readers alike.

      • hrose2931 says:

        Okay, I’ll ask the stupid question. How so? They won’t dominate anymore unless it’s published under their label because everything will be available on any reader? Will this hurt or help Indie/Self published authors?

        • You should read this. Charlie Stross explains it much better than I can.
          As for the self-published crew, I can’t imagine this will impact them at all. But granted, i’m not as forward thinking as other folks when it comes to the economics 🙂
          Self-publishing’s biggest problem remains the same – there’s no easy way for readers to separate the few gems from the mountains of shit being pushed out every day.

          • hrose2931 says:

            Okay, thanks for that link. I think I get it now. I’m feeling a little icky for buying anything from Amazon at this point!
            Amazon feels like an evil corporation at this point. maybe I want to chuck my Kindle all together. I prefer books to e-books anyway. There will always be space in my house for one more book!

  4. davidjfuller says:

    Fascinating to watch this unfold… makes me want to finally get an e-reader (wife loves hers & I am a bit envious). This from someone who still bought albums on vinyl well into the 1990s… but then that was because I enjoyed making mixtapes from them. So your argument stands up very well indeed. CDs were always price-gouging; I suspect with this, the costs associated with e-reading will drop as more people get on board. (Or am I dreaming there?)

    • I’m not sure how much lower the costs of eBooks can drop, to tell you the truth. You already have people launching titles at .99c. I think ti’s less about getting cheaper books now, than stopping Amazon having a monopoly/monopsony and the inevitable price RISES that will occur as a result.

  5. Okay your post was extremely helpful in understanding the whole DRM-Free thing. Good to know and I’m Proud of Tor and TorUK for making the change! Still cannot wait to read Stormdancer!!

    • Thanks dude!
      And yes, hopefully Tor are the first, but not the last to take this step. Any publisher with a brain knows they HAVE to take this step or go the way of the dinosaur.

  6. Sadhbh says:

    Awesome. There will be much buyination from Tor and lamentation from the Amazon tills. (Who I refuse to buy off anyway because of their ethics/how a monopoly would affect writing in general but’s because I am a big stinking hippy underneath the combats and tank vest.)

    • Sadhbh says:

      That was meant to read “but that’s because”. I have no idea what a but’s because would be. I don’t think I even want to know.

      • I. Like. Big. But’s and I cannot lie.
        You otha bruthas can’t deny
        That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist
        And a round thing in your face
        You get sprung
        Wanna pull up tough
        Cuz you notice that but was stuffed…
        yeah, I’m done…

    • Will be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next few months. How many publishers will follow (all the smart ones) and what Amazon’s response will be.

  7. neyska says:

    My favorite game developer CD Projekt Red, recently swore of DRM. It is nice to see a big book publisher going that way as well. Good for them. DRM is just bullshit.
    Oh, and I had heard something about that Stormdancer book. Sounds like it might be entertaining. 😉

  8. […] all day.” Jay Kristoff, whose debut novel STORMDANCER will be published by Tor in September, called it “a visionary and dramatic step…  a victory for consumers, and a red-letter day in the history […]

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